Justin Rutledge – Daredevil

Daredevil Digi 9

Daredevil, the latest from quavering crooner Justin Rutledge is about as Canadian as they come: an album made up entirely of Tragically Hip covers. I gave it my first spin driving out to the IcePlex to watch the Juno Cup. The sun was setting, brilliant oranges, reds, blues, over the frozen prairie. A train hauling miles of shipping containers lumbered up the CN line. Geese cut across the sky overhead, pot holes rumbled the suspension of cars all along Jubilee Avenue. I almost puked, it was so stereotypically Canuck.

The album itself a finely crafted piece of folk art, with many of the familiar radio “hits” of the Hip reimagined and contextualized by Rutledge in much the same vein as his other-most-recent release, Valleyheart, which took home a Juno this past year. “Looking for a Place to Happen” and “Escape is At Hand for the Travellin’ Man” are the most daring of the covers, the former as a creeping dirge, the latter as the only real approximation of the Hip’s bar-room bombastic best. On the whole, the album is a nice little piece of work, and something that is sure to be enjoyed over cups of coffee on cold, Canadian mornings, such as the one depicted on the album’s cover.

The longer I listened to it, though, I couldn’t shake a disconcerting feeling. Daredevil is a delicate, at times even beautiful, homage to one of our country’s most beloved rock bands, by one of Canada’s major emerging folk talents. But it’s also boring and bland as can be, devoid of any of the angst or rage that makes a rock song, you know, rock. Listening to it yet again, I’m still conflicted: Is this what it means to be Canadian? Or is this the sound of a confident artist hitting all the right spots? Or is this what it means to grow old, comfortably, and with grace, too? (Outside Music, justinrutledge.com) Sheldon Birnie

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